Marvel of Yoda Ela
Posted on August 24th, 2010

Sunil Vijayapala 

I was very fortunate to spend a few months in 2008 in our capital of Sri Lanka which is Anuradhapura. (sorry folks it HAS to be our capital)  One of the marvels of our ancient Sinhala history is the Yoda Ela built by King Dhatusena in 5 century AD which connects Dhatusena’s Kalawewa in Polonnaruwa district and Tissawewa in Anu built by King Devanappiyatissa in 300 BC.  The sea level at Kalawewa stands 6inchs higher than Tissa wewa, according to reliable reports and water flows from Kalawewa to Tissawewa a distance of 45km(this distance varies with one report to another “”…” in one report it says 86km) through Yoda Ela. The first 27 kilometers has a slope of 6cm per 1.6km and along the whole length of the canal the average gradient is 10 to 20 cm per kilometer. 

 How did the ancient engineers achieve this engineering feat in 5th century AD?  To probe into this enigma one day I decided to hire a bicycle and kept on peddling along the road which runs along the dam of Tissawewa to the point where the water was flowing into the tank.  The water at this point flowed very smoothly as if it was standstill.  You see cows gracing on this flat area and the water level here is around a foot deep.  

 I managed to cycle along the canal about a kilometer and crossed over to the other side of the Anu Puttalam road near a small bridge.  The road along the canal from this point was narrow yet passable and was a normal village gravel road for commuting by bike and walking, a bit wild but nothing to panic as you come across people and roads which connect to Anu-Kurunegala road.  You could see houses along the canal and irrigation to grow crops and villagers bathe in the canal as the water looks clear however to my amazement I saw an anicut built right across this engineering marvel which will make anyone angry.  All along my one hour expedition the canal ran in an almost zig zag manner, nature’s way of river flow, which may have helped the ancient engineers to achieve the gradient for water overflow from Kalawewa to reach Tissawewa.

 Did the engineers really achieve this gradient which according to my thinking is an impossible task with constant mud and silt flowing with water depositing on the bed of the canal?  Could this flow of water along this great distance be achieved by cutting steps along the way so that a flat surface could be attainable even for very long distances with archaic technology?  Say you begin near Kalawewa a drop/step of 2.5cm and water will flow as it finds its own level and keep this to a distance of say 20km super flat and another 2.5cm drop will continue to another 20km and so on until the final drop of 2.5cm will take the water to Tissawewa.  Maybe the slope was formed eventually over the years with mud depositing along the bed of the canal between two steps.  Am I being too ambitious on this concept or is there some other explanation?  Can any Civil engineer or a man of wisdom throw some light on this enigma as there should be a solution to this great irrigation marvel? 

 I was told by Anu people that the mouth of Yoda Ela also called Jaya Ganga near Kalawewa runs a perfect zig zag manner.  King Dhatusena had to have a solution for his overflow and he had the brilliance of Sinhala engineers to achieve his objective or did the Arahants who had unimpeded knowledge helped him as they did when building perfect contours of brick structures of tallest dagabas in the world.  Why can’t out neo-Sinhalaya sell our country to tourists concentrating on these ancient wonders?  Imagine if these wonders were found in England and to the extent they would have exploited these while they still make money showing one Stonehenge!  I suggested few years ago to tourist board that they should have a replica of Sigiriya near the site depicting the exact structure as was during King Kashypa’s time.  Well our politicians are far more busy looking for where the next vote come from and our bureaucrats sit on the rigid, regimental thrown of their former British counterparts busy on litigations and following to the letter (a Sinhala pun) of “ƒ”¹…”procedures’, ‘laws’ and “ƒ”¹…”constitutions’ handed by their British adminstrators.  

 The moment I saw Ranmasu Uyane, near Isurumuniya, I suggested to the Archeology Department and the Irrigation engineers in Anu to Water Test the intricate system of water baths, pools, sauna as this too was another marvel in Sri Lanka’s history.  We simply have forgotten our history and students must be taught not in cramped up classes but by spending time outdoors.  May be even Anu students may not be aware of these marvels exist in their own back yard as they concentrate cramming up for “ƒ”¹…”O’ level and “ƒ”¹…”A’ level the subject of English, which is the most important issue in Sri Lanka at present and other theoretical subjects which will never make our kids practical minded and would never make them proud of their ancestry partially because of this mad ethnic issue which has economically, socially and politically drained us all.

 Sunil Vijayapala 

One Response to “Marvel of Yoda Ela”

  1. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    I wholeheratedly endorse your suggestions and queries. Wake up tourist board – this is a money spinner for the nation as well as welcome inspiration for our future generations to strive for excellence in what they do.

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